Lately the most important thing in my life is television. Specifically, those complicated procedural courtroom dramas that air in six-hour blocks I can get lost in. The onslaught of technical law jargon strewn throughout each episode is only able to register in my brain for a second but it’s long enough to distract me from the stress dream that is my entire life. In fact, my life has become so unbearable,that I’ve begun this ritual of planting myself in the chaise in front of the TV in the study for days at a time, moving occasionally to eat or urinate but never to greet my son or daughter or husband when they arrive home, never to ask how their days have been. I just do what I think is necessary. I eat, I shit, I piss and I watch criminal after criminal get exactly what they deserve.
This process has become so frequent, that now my family seems unfazed by my random bouts of binge watching. They leave me to my television and my sulk, bringing me food sometimes but never bothering to see if I finish or caring if I even try. The dramatic effect, my son says one day before dropping him off at school, has worn off.
As cliched as it may sound, I’ve begun to feel like a stranger to my own family or at least, a version of myself they can’t begin to understand. When these bouts of incessant watching pass, I find it harder and harder to resume my role as parent and partner. When I’m watching TV there are these moments, fleeting ones, where I feel like my soul has left my body and I’m standing over myself and the only thing I can think is “how pathetic” but there’s nothing I can do. I reach out with my out-of-body hands and try to shake myself but they just pass right through me, undetected. Then, just like that, I’m back in my body, unable to move, watching the infomercials that play in the early morning hours when all the network’s content is finished.
In a breach of medical confidentiality, my daughter’s therapist tells me that my daughter doesn’t think I understand her. I keep saying I’ll try to make an effort but I just can’t seem to get it right.
I’m two days into my latest binge when my daughter comes into the study carrying a glass of juice. I smooth out the mountainous regions of the comforter blocking my vision to see her standing there, an almost carbon copy of what I looked like at her age. She asks me how long I’ve been sitting here and when I tell her I don’t know, she looks at me in this funny, disapproving way, like she’s concerned or maybe just embarrassed of me. The episode is almost over and, slightly interested, she asks me what was the outcome of the case.
This is my chance, I think. This is the connection I’ve been searching for. So I open my mouth to answer but I can’t seem to remember who won because I realize I wasn’t paying attention. I was so distracted thinking about myself. I tell her that I don’t know again and she looks at me with a different kind of disappointment than I’m used too, one that makes me want to get up and turn off the TV forever.
She sighs, says “whatever” then goes upstairs to her room.
Miles Preston-Clark is a Black writer and interdisciplinary artist from Atlanta, GA living in Brooklyn. He is the author of the chapbook Even The Clowns Are On Strike (Akiba, 2017). His writing has been exhibited and performed at The Poetry Foundation, Soho House Chicago, The Poetic Research Bureau, Chopin Theatre and elsewhere. His writing has been published or is forthcoming in Hobart, Metatron, Spork Press, Cosmonauts Avenue and elsewhere. www.milesprestonclark.